Working in France

Opportunities in France

If you want to work in France, what you need more than anything else is a good command of French. This is an indispensable requirement not only for finding em­ployment in the country but above all for getting along in everyday life.

Despite France's variety of landscape and culture - Paris with its population of more than ten million people is definitely the economic center of the country. Other eco­nomic areas are Lyon, Marseille and Lille.

Looking for employment

Unsolicited applications are common practice in France, due to the fact that a lot of existing vacancies are not reported to labor offices or posted in job centers. All the same, checking what is currently on offer at may well be worth your while.

In addition to that, there are job advertisements in the weekly paper L'Express as well as in the daily papers Le Monde (on Tuesdays) and Le Figaro (on Mondays).

Applications must include a CV (curriculum vitae) and a handwritten motivation letter. CV's should be organized according to category in reverse chronological order.

Copies of certificates are not usually enclosed. While personal refer­ences can be excluded, the evidence of your attendance at university can be of considerable sig­nificance. If your university happens to cooperate with a famous French institution, this should be mentioned. Furthermore, bear in mind that French employers pay great attention to applicants' personality and to the way they present themselves.

Requirements for entering France and taking up employment in the country.

EU citizens

EU citizens as well as citizens of Norway and Iceland have free access to the French labor market. To be allowed to stay in France, all that is required is a valid identity card or a passport. In case your period of employment exceeds the duration of three months, you are required by law to apply for a residence permit at the local police prefecture. To do so, you need to produce a certificate of em­ployment. If you're self-employed, the trade you pursue must be entered in the French commer­cial registry.

Non-EU citizens

Under specific conditions, non-EU citizens require a visa in order to be allowed to work in France. Both a residence permit and a work permit are obligatory but difficult to obtain.

Work permit

If you're not a citizen of a country belonging to the European Economic Area, it would be advisable to apply for a work permit before you arrive in France. Work permits are issued by the French Immigration Office (Office des Migrations Internationales; OMI) and by the French Ministry of Labor. It is strongly recommended to make sure the required legal proceed­ings are completed before you leave for France, as it takes at least six to eight weeks for applications to be processed.

A work permit will be issued only if your French employer can provide evidence that the relevant job can only be performed by a qualified person from outside France and outside the European Economic Area. It's not difficult to obtain a residence per­mit if a work permit has already been issued, since having a work permit is the most impor­tant requirement for getting a residence permit.

Residence permit

Employees of companies with headquarters outside of France, who are without EU citizenship, can be officially posted to France for a maximum of eighteen months. These employ­ees will continue to draw their salaries from their companies' original headquar­ters. Moreover, jobholders receive two documents to le­gitimize their resi­dence in France: firstly, a limited residence permit, and secondly, a tem­porary work permit. Both documents are valid for nine months and can be ex­tended for another nine months, however only once.

If a foreign employee receives a permanent work permit, he is first issued a tempo­rary residence permit by the local police prefecture. The rele­vant documents received from the Immigration Office and the French Ministry of La­bor need to be produced in order to obtain such a permit. A residence permit is valid for one year and can be extended.

After three years of regular and uninterrupted residence in France a permanent resi­dence permit may be applied for, enabling holders to accept any employment in the country. This residence permit is valid for ten years and can be extended.

Working in France

French industrial law has been greatly influenced by the French trade unions. In gen­eral, the position occupied by French jobholders is quite powerful. Of course, factors such as salaries and vacation entitlements de­pend on individual negotiative skills. As a result, talks sometimes tend to extend over longer periods of time between the point when a first tentative agreement is reached until the time when a final contract of employment is signed. Please take note of the following information regard­ing va­cation entitlements, working hours, and social insurance.

Vacation entitlements

French jobholders are entitled by law to a minimum of twenty-five vacation days per annum. However, as trade union agreements often assume priority over French in­dustrial law, French employees are mostly entitled to a larger number of vaca­tion days than the law requires.

Working hours and minumum wages

In order to counter the unstable situation on the French labor market at the end of the nineties, the French government decreed a 35 hour work week in Janu­ary of 2000. Working hours agreed through collective bar­gaining with the trade unions seldom vary from the requirements of French law. However, in practice there are numerous exceptions to these agreements, permitting a higher number of weekly work­ing hours. In such cases, all irregularities have to be compensated for so that in the end there is an annual average of thirty-five working hours per week. If you work over­time, you receive higher compensa­tion.

The dynamic minimum wage is intended to serve the purpose of compensating social imbalances. The minimum wage guaranteed by French law (SMIC - salaire minimum in­ter­professionnel de croissance) is regularly re-assessed by the French government in keeping with the general development of wages.


French law requires you to pay taxes if you stay in France for more than 183 days per year or if you conduct your regular business in that country. The relevant tax rate is calculated progressively and adjusted every year.

Social insurance

An extended residence in France requires you to join the French welfare system (Sé­curité Sociale) which entitles jobholders to benefits in case of illness, maternity, oc­cupational accidents and illnesses, inability to work, fatality, and unemployment.  It also provides family benefits and pension insurance.

By and large, health insurance is paid for by French employers. A common welfare tax of 7.5 per cent, imposed on all forms of income (based on 95 per cent of income), is likewise used to support social insurance. French employers assume responsibility for their employees' health insurance. However, as an employee you should ensure that you actually receive your Social Security Card.

Expenses for medical treatment

In France, only basic health care is covered by health insurance. As a result, only a certain percentage (between 60 and 80) of expenses for medical and hospital treat­ment is borne by French insurance carriers. This is why almost ninety per cent of French jobholders have additional medical insurance, generally provided for by their employers.

In France, there is free selection of doctors. However, you should ensure that a doc­tor is authorized to collect his treatment charges from the respective medical insur­ance companies, since otherwise only a small percentage of medical expenses will be paid for. These expenses have to be paid for in advance by patients and will af­terwards be reimbursed.

Social insurance for self-employed businessmen

If you're self-employed, you have to be registered with the social insurance depart­ment in charge of your occupational group. You have to register with the respective French trade registry (registre du commerce) within fifteen days in order to have ac­cess to the benefits of health and maternity insurance. In addition to this, you have to register with the regional representative of social security (caisse mutuelle régionale) so that your application can be dealt with.

Detailed information on all subject areas, including documents concerning vocational training, is available from the European Union. Relevant information can also be pro­vided by the French embassy.